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Mannheimer Swartling

23 January 2014

Sweden’s leading practice – and competitive elsewhere

People in Who's Who:
Pending cases as counsel:
Value of pending counsel work:
US$33 billion
Treaty cases:
Current arbitrator appointments:
26 (of which 18 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:


Sweden has blessed and encouraged private dispute resolution for years (since its first civil code). Even today, local companies prefer arbitration over litigation for local disputes. So Swedish lawyers grow up with arbitration in their DNA.

Not just domestic arbitration either. A twist of fate in the 1970s made Stockholm a hub for international arbitration, after the US and USSR decided it would be a good place to settle trade disputes (at the SCC). In the 1980s, China followed suit.

Which is a long way of saying that Swedish firms are unusually good at international arbitration. And none is better than Mannheimer Swartling.

Formed by merger 25 years ago, the firm has helped shape arbitration in Sweden and beyond. Its members have been at the heart of local and foreign arbitral institutions – for example, it was Mannheimer Swartling lawyers who represented Sweden on the UNCITRAL working groups that developed the Model Law – and can still be found there.

The firm also represented a series of US oil companies before the Iran-US Claims Tribunal.

Within the firm, the arbitration team is a dominant element. It’s also often the best-performing team from a civil law jurisdiction in the GAR 30. It continues to be led by the country’s foremost arbitration academic and arbitrator, Kaj Hobér, but several other names are worth noting: Jakob Ragnwaldh, a member of the SCC Arbitration Institute’s board; Nils Eliasson, on the ICC national committee on arbitration in Hong Kong and founder of a group for young practitioners in the region; and Robin Oldenstam, a member of the GAR editorial board and head of the Swedish Arbitration Association, to name but three.

In 2012, the firm received a GAR Award for their special contribution to Swedish arbitration culture.


There are key people in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, Hong Kong and Frankfurt. Three divide their time between Sweden and Moscow.

Who uses it?

The firm’s a little shy about mentioning clients and, frankly, they’re a mixed bunch, from energy firms to Italian goods makers. A common theme is usually a Russian, Chinese or Nordic angle. Some clients its known to have advised include Vattenfall, Endesa, Stena RoRo, Edison, Norwegian chemicals company Yara and Lithuania’s energy ministry.

Track record

The firm helped RosInvestCo, a UK subsidiary of distressed debt fund Elliot Associates, win a landmark investment treaty claim against the Russian government over the expropriation of its shares in Yukos Oil Company. The damages won were quite small – US$3.5 million – but it was the first time Russia had been held liable for its treatment of Yukos. (However, the award has recently been set aside by the Swedish courts.)

It was also the firm that Sweden’s state-owned power company Vattenfall turned to for the first-ever ICSID claim against Germany (as co-counsel with German firm Luther). The two firms have since been retained by Vattenfall for a new ICSID claim over Germany’s closure of nuclear power stations in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan.

The firm can’t talk about much of its commercial work, but it is reputed to be pretty successful. In one public matter, the team helped Swedish mobile operator Tele2 defeat a US$728 million claim brought by a British Virgin Islands entity concerning an M&A transaction. The New York-seated ICDR arbitration ended in 2011 with the dismissal of all claims against Tele2 and a costs award of US$2 million in its favour. (The New York courts recently upheld the award.)

Another high-profile matter saw the firm defend the Lithuanian energy ministry in an SCC claim brought by Russia’s Gazprom concerning the running of Lithuania’s main gas provider, in which they both have shares.

Mannheimer also frequently appears on the leading cases on arbitration before the Swedish courts.

Recent events

The Moscow office added Alexey Barnashov as counsel (from White & Case) but said farewell to counsel Richard Chlup, who joined VGP Legal in Zurich.

In October 2013, China’s ministry of commerce named Mannheimer Swartling among 12 international firms that will advise the state on investment disputes.

The firm reports recent successes for a lage multinational in two arbitrations over Russian construction projects; for a large Italian goods maker in an ICC case against a US company; and for a major telecoms company in a case against one of its main competitors.

In addition, Mannheimer Swartling prevailed on some of its claims for a major South European energy company in an UNCITRAL arbitration under a production sharing agreement, also winning costs (Volterra Fietta was on the other side).

The firm was also instructed by a major European gas supplier for a couple of cases worth several hundred million euros.

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